There is a church which has assets of £8,700,000,000 at the start 2020, at the start of the pandemic. The nation struggled and many were in financial despair. What might Jesus have hoped that the church would do?
The church did not ‘hide their gold in the ground’, or put it in a deposit account earning perhaps 1% return. Instead it invested its assets and achieved a growth of 10.4% in the year. Would Jesus have been happy with that stewardship of the money?
The church spent some of the money that they received, but at the end of 2020 the assets of the church had grown by £500,000,000 to £9,200,000,000. Is God blessing that church with growth?
“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”
Over Christmas, a small church agreed to spend £1000 to make up food hampers for those on Free School Meals. As a result, fifty families were blessed. People were inspired to donate towards the cost of the parcels, which meant that it actually cost the church nothing. Was God rewarding their generous spirit?
I saw a Facebook post recently that made me think:
It is so easy to criticize those who have more money than us. But we could equally say:
There is a charity, set up by a Christian pastor, which buys and builds houses that are loaned to local churches to house and support vulnerable homeless people. So far they have housed 1226 people. They raise the money through people investing in their project rather than by donating money. They offer a 5% financial return on investment so that investors have the twin benefit of knowing that a homeless person is being housed and loved, and getting an above average return on investment. (https://www.greenpastures.net/) The charity is growing; does that make Jesus smile?
We may worry about money; it is natural. Everything today is described by its economic value, or the cost to do it; phrases and a culture used to justified austerity. In such an environment it is hard not to put a financial value on everything, and to be thrifty. Consider another quote that I came across said:
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” Noam Chomsky
That is today’s truth. Greed is now accepted as good in this country. People simply debate how much greed. But we don’t call it greed, we use phrases like ‘reserves’, ‘savings’, ‘retirement plan’ to avoid confronting whether we should be keeping our money to ourselves. Jesus said:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Dealing with money is not easy, but it is SO important. It must not become our treasure, but it is certainly a tool. It allows us to be a blessing to others in as little time as writing a cheque – and time is a stress for many. It blesses us to bless others, but if we agonise about the smallest financial decision then our worrying steals our time, our energy, and can lead to conflict! We need to train ourselves to be instinctively generous. We might reflect on these phrases of Jesus, remembering that he spoke them because he loves us; because they are good for us:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”
“None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”
And as St Paul wrote:
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”